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Friday, April 18, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 52.0° F  A Few Clouds
Arts

TELEVISION

A whole new me
A bad girl goes good in Samantha Who?

Applegate can't remember her past, thank God.
Applegate can't remember her past, thank God.
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Samantha (Christina Applegate) awakens from a coma with amnesia. Her parents sit with her in the hospital room, but they're not much comfort. Her self-absorbed mother videotapes herself enacting "grief" with an eye to a guest slot on Extreme Makeover. When her distant father realizes that Samantha doesn't recognize him, he hands her his business card.

Samantha Who? (Monday, 8:30 p.m., ABC) is a very good comedy about very bad people. Samantha was a bad person herself, as she soon finds out. She was arrogant, mean and deceptive, and the people she associated with were no better. She recoils from her narcissistic best friend, her shallow boyfriend and her obnoxious lover-on-the-side. Each of these characters is a comic gem, and Applegate plays Samantha's disgust and disorientation to the hilt.

At the end of the pilot, Samantha muses about her future: "I'm going to try to form some healthier relationships and make some better choices." Hey, don't make those relationships too healthy, or Samantha Who? will lose all its charm.

Women's Murder Club
Friday, 8 pm (ABC)

This new drama comes on like a tribute to strong women. Four female friends - a detective (Angie Harmon), an assistant D.A. (Laura Harris), a medical examiner (Paula Newsome) and a reporter (Aubrey Dollar) - secretly band together to solve crimes. They pose as independent professionals, but when no one's looking they huddle to share classified information with each other. "Women teaming up to level the playing field in a man's world," as one character puts it.

Not a bad premise, but the series can't get us to take these women seriously. Why do they have to look like Victoria's Secret models? You can't help but think they care more about lip gloss than injustice. When the detective points her gun - wearing a fashionable T-shirt and tight jeans - she's about as convincing as Farrah Fawcett in Charlie's Angels.

The women are also distracted by their romantic relationships. In the middle of a crime scene, with blood splattered on the ceiling, they giggle over boyfriends and ex-husbands. That'd be fine if Women's Murder Club were camp, but it's supposed to be as serious as a mutilated corpse. Why else would it show so many mutilated corpses?

It's hard to believe the producers thought women could "level the playing field" with little more than cute haircuts.

America's Psychic Challenge
Friday, 9 pm (Lifetime)

Sixteen self-proclaimed psychics vie for a $100,000 prize in perhaps the silliest reality series of all time. America's Psychic Challenge takes these posers seriously, but I doubt anybody else will.

In the first contest, the psychics are brought to an abandoned hospital, where they must guess (excuse me, divine) which room a person is hiding in. None of them can do it, but they've all got an excuse. "I keep feeling like I'm picking up residual energy," says one. Hey, it happens to the best of us.

In the next contest, the psychics must guess (divine!) facts about a celebrity concealed just behind a wall. They throw out every general question they can think of - has she had car trouble? is the letter "L" significant? any interest in astrology? - with no luck. Finally, a psychic successfully guesses (DIVINES!) that the celebrity enjoys music. Uncanny.

For viewers, the real challenge in America's Psychic Challenge is to keep from laughing.

Online Nation
Sunday, 6:30 pm (CW)

This new series features viewers' homemade clips from the Web. It tries - boy, does it try - to be hip and cutting-edge. But the CW can't disguise the fact that Online Nation is simply an update of America's Funniest Home Videos. People get hit in the crotch; people get squirted in the face; people fall off buildings. We see a dance on bubble wrap, portraits painted with ketchup, and many lame raps.

The program's four young hosts are clearly meant to seem "now," but they all seem oddly "then" - they might as well be Mouseketeers. They chirp their lines while crisscrossing the set with stiff choreography worthy of a high school talent show. "Well, that's about it for us here at Online Nation!" says one maniacally smiling host by way of a signoff. "It's been fun, engaging and intriguing!"

Maybe it's intriguing for you, but not for the rest of us. Though I do admit that the ketchup portraits are kind of cool.

Bionic Woman
Wednesday, 8 pm (NBC)

The 1970s' Bionic Woman, starring Lindsay Wagner as a woman with superhuman body parts, is remembered as pure cheese. NBC's new version tries to distance itself from that legacy, but in doing so drains all the fun out of the concept. The production is relentlessly grim, with mangled carcasses littering the set. Star Michelle Ryan is just a big old whiner, forever complaining about her superpowers rather than enjoying them. As a result, we don't enjoy them either.

Lindsay Wagner, all is forgiven.

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